Easter, a holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, doesn’t have such a simple history as one may think. Behind the Easter baskets the Easter Bunny, the Easter eggs, and the cross is a history that lend the holiday greater depth and meaning.
Though known as the holiest of the Christian holidays, it originates from a pagan festival known as Eastre that celebrated spring’s arrival. By coincidence, this pagan celebration coincided with the timing of Christ’s resurrection.
Christians slowly incorporated their beliefs into the Anglo-Saxon’s celebration, as part of their efforts to spread Christianity.
While Christianity made its way throughout the world, it was commonplace for Christians to take over non-Christian holidays.
Easter was celebrated on Friday, Saturday or Sunday until 325 A.D., when Emperor Constantine and the Nicaean Council made the Easter Rule. This rule restricted the holiday to the first Sunday after the first moon following the vernal equinox.
With that rule, Easter happens anywhere between March 22 and April 25. So this year, the full moon occurred Monday.
Also as part of that meeting, Emperor Constantine designated the cross as the official symbol of Christianity.
In Eastern Orthodox churches however, they use the Julian calendar in place of the Gregorian calendar so their Easter holiday is usually several weeks before the Western Easter.
Though integral to modern Christianity’s fabric, Easter wasn’t embraced by the Christians in America until after the Civil War. At this point, the Germans introduced the Easter Bunny.
The Easter Bunny actually links back to the pagan version of Easter. The Anglo-Saxons worshipped the mythological goddess of fertility, Oestre. Because of the rabbit’s fertility, the Anglo-Saxons used the rabbit as the goddess’ earthly embodiment.
According to sunniebunniezz.com, the Easter Bunny comes from a German Legend.
“A poor woman decorated eggs for her children to find during a famine,” it states. “At the moment they found them, they looked up to see a big bunny hopping away.”
The Easter eggs delivered by the Easter Bunny have their own historical significance and symbolism.
Long before Christians adopted the Easter holiday, numerous cultures including the pagans used eggs as gifts or in contests as a symbol of rebirth and new life.
In earlier times, to stand for the bright sunlight of spring, eggs were wrapped in gold leaves or for the peasants, died by leaves and petals. Christianity also embraced eggs as their holiday as a symbol of the new life offered by Christ’s resurrection.
And of course, the lamb doesn’t just represent the way March exits, but the savior’s great sacrifice as the Lamb of God that modern Christian will celebrate this Sunday.